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Thread: Would Hillary Clinton be crushing John McCain?

  1. #1
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    Default Would Hillary Clinton be crushing John McCain?

    Would Clinton Be Crushing McCain?

    Andrew Romano

    (Elise Amendola / AP Photo)


    While some Democrats panic (prematurely, experts say) over a series of polls showing the average gap between Barack Obama and John McCain shrinking from eight points on June 23 to 1.4 points today, another slice of the party--namely, the disgruntled-Clintonista contingent--is reacting with four cruel words: "I told you so." And thanks to the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, they have some ammunition. Released yesterday afternoon, the survey gives Obama 45 percent to 42 percent lead over McCain--down from his six-point advantage last month--while putting Clinton ahead of the Republican nominee 49-43. "The Democrats really needed Hillary to win, and not as VP," writes Stumper reader MCGILL. "McCain has it."

    Fellow commenter "jpokergman" goes one step further, predicting that Denver will "morph into a Hillary-buyer-remorse-lovefest," with "'we could have had Hillary'... rocketing through the Democratic convention" and the press "turn[ing] on Obama like a starving pit-bull."

    Sadly--because anything would be better than the newsless infomercials conventions have become--this isn't going to happen. But all the agita does raise an interesting question: If Hillary Clinton had captured the Democratic nomination back in June--perhaps with revotes in Florida and Michigan--would she performing better against McCain than Obama is now? Of course, this sort of counterfactual is impossible to, you know, prove. But given that Clinton was easily the closest runner-up in modern nominating history--and given that doubts about whether or not she would've been a stronger nominee are still dividing Democrats--it's worth taking a brief breather from this week's frenzied veepstakes bonanza to scan the available evidence and ponder the "what ifs."

    From a messaging standpoint, there's certainly an argument to be made that Clinton would be outperforming Obama. As the New York Times reported this morning, "voters [are] focused overwhelmingly on economic issues"--40 percent name "the economy" as their most pressing concern--"but [are] convinced that the candidates are not paying enough attention to their priorities." The Washington Times, meanwhile, notes that McCain is now leading "when voters [are] asked which candidate could better manage the economy," "turning a four-point deficit in July['s Reuters/Zobgy poll] into a 49 percent to 40 percent lead." This is clear proof that despite "delivering a more populist message that further highlights his [economic] differences with Senator John McCain" since returning last week from Hawaii, Obama has yet to make an emotional connection with swing voters on what should be the Democratic Party's winning issue.

    Judging by the final months of the Democratic nominating contest--when Clinton won the majority of votes and primaries by hammering home precisely the "populist message" Obama is now adopting--the former first lady would not be having that problem right now. It's not that Obama isn't proposing specific economic policies. He is. But the Obama "phenomenon" provides the press with so many distractions--his race, his "celebrity," the latest "Obama-themed merchandise"--that his daily message is often drowned out. With the relatively "familiar" Clinton, on the other hand, reporters probably would've been forced to cover her latest "solution" on, say, "equal pay for women"--because she'd give them little else to chatter about.

    (Remember who coined the phrase "it's the economy, stupid.") Like her husband Bill--who in 1992 skipped the posh Martha's Vineyard for "rustic" Jackson Hole, Wyo., where he was photographed riding a horse--Clinton would've vacationed in a poll-tested "all-American" spot like Scranton, Penn. instead of Obama's "highfalutin" Hawaii.

    Coupled with her relative strength in the traditional swing states of Ohio and Florida--as of early May, she was leading McCain there by 6-8 percent, while Obama, who's still behind in both places, trailed by nearly as much--it's easy to see why some supporters think she'd be in a better position to win come November.

    That said, there are plenty of reasons to suspect that a Clinton-McCain match-up would've been just as close as the current contest.

    For starters, Clinton's "lead" over McCain in the latest NBC/WSJ poll is her largest ever. From January through April, she never edged out McCain--who actually beat her 47-43 in January and 46-44 in March--by more than two points. Obama, meanwhile, posted consistent leads over the Republican nominee and therefore appeared to be the stronger national candidate. So what accounts for Clinton's gains?

    Simply put, disgruntled Clintonistas. As MSNBC's First Read team reported this morning, "the biggest reason why this race remains close in this Dem-leaning political environment is because of Obama’s inability to close the deal with some of Clinton’s supporters."

    According to the NBC/WSJ poll, 52 percent of them say they'll vote for the presumptive Democratic nominee, while 21 percent are backing McCain and an additional 27 percent are either undecided or want to vote for someone else. These dissenters wouldn't exist, of course, if Clinton had won the nomination. But it's worth remembering that she'd have a whole nother group of dissatisfied Dems to contend with--namely black and young voters, who supported Obama by overwhelming margins in the primaries and would've been at least as angry as Clinton's former backers are now if HRC and Co. had "stolen" the nomination by "bending the rules" at the 11th hour. If the tables were turned and Clinton were now running against McCain, these voters--who represent a full 30 percent of the NBC/WSJ sample group--would undoubtedly depress Clinton's numbers as much as (or more than) disgruntled Clintonites are now depressing Obama's.

    And that's not all. While Clinton was outpolling Obama in Ohio and Florida last May, she was also losing to McCain across a broad swath of crucial swing states where Obama was (and is) either winning or tied: Wisconsin (by four percent); Virginia (by nine percent); Colorado (by approximately eight percent); New Hampshire (by one percent); Michigan (by three percent); and Iowa (by three percent).

    Given that Obama outraised Clinton by $60 million during the primaries and is still only barely keeping pace with McCain and the RNC's combined intake--not to mention the fact that he consistently out-organized her and is now investing "more massively than any campaign in the history of American politics on the ground game"--it's impossible to conclude, all things considered, that Clinton would be outperforming Obama in an Electoral College match-up with McCain. Especially when you factor in her near-50-percent disapproval ratings and account for all the animus she inspires on the right--which the GOP would deftly use to fuel its GOTV and fundraising efforts and rally its otherwise dispirited base. And there's no reason to believe that Clinton's conflicted, rudderless, ineffectual campaign--the real reason she lost--would suddenly, magically whip itself into working order in time for the fall.

    Still, it's understandable that some Dems are speculating about what might have been. In fact, the buzz has grown so loud in recent days (hours?) that it seems to have spilled over into--you guessed it--the veepstakes feeding frenzy. According to master CW-monger Mark Halperin, "EVERYONE in the political class is [now] talking about the possibility of Obama shocking the world and picking Hillary Clinton as his running mate." For what it's worth, the "dream team" idea makes more sense today than it ever has. Obama solidifies his support among former Clintonistas, excites the Democratic base and boosts his chances in Ohio and Florida. Clinton doesn't do what the naysayers feared she would do--that is, unite the Republican Party (it's already pretty united, at least against Obama) or fill McCain's coffers (he's on the verge of forsaking private funds)--but she does provoke, in Nate Silver's words, "overzealous attempts to whip the Republican base into a frenzy" that will inevitably be "counteracted with outrage from significant numbers of older and working-class women." It could work. Unfortunately, as Halperin notes, there's only one thing that "speculation of a Clinton veep choice is based on" at this point:


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  2. #2
    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    I knew this question would come up, and the answer is NO. Hillary wouldn't be crushing McCain in the polls. Because Hillary would probably have the same poll numbers Obama has. Besides, Hillary herself kept publicy praising John McCain, so those words would be biting her in the ass right now.

    I don't know why some of the die-hard Hillary supporters keep trying to make a case that Hillary is some unbeatable candidate. The fact thats she already got beaten during the primaries should dispel that idea.

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